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Viva Fidel

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The never-ending tributes to Cuba’s revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro Ruz, continue right up to, and after, the interment of his remains on Sunday. Fidel’s death has overshadowed all else on the global stage, despite the despicable actions of the anti-Cuban contingent in Miami, celebrating the death of someone they regard as a sworn enemy and the reactionary threats by US President-elect Donald Trump, about reversing the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States.{{more}}

Cuba has endured nearly 60 years of such threats and hostile actions. Fidel himself outlived more than 600 assassination attempts and saw 10 American presidents leave the Oval Office in the White House with the Cuban Revolution still intact, so why should the people of Cuba tremble because Donald Trump barks?

What I find instructive is our acceptance of attempts to kill a head of state with full state sanction and support. Could you imagine our reaction if Cuba had sponsored an attempt to assassinate a US president? What could cause such hatred of one man? More than any other in modern times, Fidel Castro was vilified, all kinds of lies and slander hurled his way. He rode them all with dignity, right to his peaceful death, never responding in kind.

Cuba under Fidel has held out a hand of friendship to small, poor countries like ours, even when we were reluctant, or in many cases downright afraid to respond. I remember for instance, St Vincent and the Grenadines being scared to accept a shipment of Cuban relief supplies after the eruption of the Soufriere volcano in 1979, leaving the Cuban ship which brought the supplies waiting in uncertainty until common sense prevailed.

Then there was the fear to take up scholarships offered, which would allow many young people whose parents could not afford the cost of university education to become professionally qualified. It took the courage of the progressive political movement of the times, YULIMO, and the SVG/Cuba Friendship Society to take up the generous offers. SVG today has a solid contingent of qualified professionals, trained in Cuba, thanks to Fidel and the Revolution.

But there was more coming. Could we ever be grateful enough for a programme like the VISION NOW one, enabling persons who would never be able to afford it, to get quality attention, literally opening eyes? Or for the Cuban professionals who helped to boost our health system, even as we, spurred by the greedy and reactionary, spread all kinds of slander against them and their country?

Add to that the international airport at Argyle, inconceivable without Cuban assistance, and then one gets a better appreciation of the scale of Cuban generosity to this country. What has Cuba got from us in return? Dirty propaganda on radio and the social media. We even made a big song and dance about Government buying fried chicken for Cuban workers here. That’s how low we got; that was the worst manifestation of the ingratitude which is still among some of us.

Fidel’s passing gives us an opportunity to reflect on how we have been duped and frightened into ingratitude to those who have befriended us. We have listened to some who cannot step in Fidel Castro’s shoes. That does not mean that we all must applaud every statement or action on the part of the late leader and the Cuban government. But we must learn how to disagree in a civil manner, learn how to analyse what is in our best interests and to act appropriately.

In the face of all the actions and threats of those who wield tremendous power on a global scale, Fidel and Cuba withstood the test of time. Like Mandela, he proved to be one of the luminaries of the 20th century. It was not by chance that, on his release, Mandela embraced Fidel. Many were the predictions of the demise of Fidel and the Cuban Revolution, even by a former Prime Minister of ours, who incidentally had the good sense to establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba and to be decorated by Fidel himself. The NDP government of the time deserves praise and credit for such open-mindedness and it is to be hoped that sanity would return to its camp and that it will spurn the vile propaganda of the opportunists in its ranks.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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